09 Apr Advice from a Developed Nation to a Developing One: Learn from our Mistakes
From a Developed Nation to a Developing One
This is one of those controversial articles everyone tells you not to write. The most common argument that I’ve heard is that a developed nation can’t advise against industrialization when they themselves made their wealth through this process, but I believe that’s a simplification of an immensely complicated network of ideas. Growth, development and progress do not inherently depend on dirty forms of energy, pollution, poor use of space and homogenization, especially not in today’s global economy. People care about the planet; they are more conscientious than in decades past and willing to pay a little more for sustainable tourism, free trade products and uncontaminated food.
1. Unspoiled Nature Will Attract Tourism
When most people think of vacation, they imagine it set in beautiful scenery: relaxing on a virgin beach with a cocktail in hand, or in the tucked away in a mountain cabin surrounded of a cool forest. Even those looking for a bustling city experience are becoming more conscientious about how their travel plans affect the planet, asking about what green practices their hotel employs. While unspoiled stretches of nature become harder to find, and global citizens pay closer attention to how tourism facilities treat the environment, a country that takes care of their natural beauty is sure to see growth in their tourism industry.
Costa Rica is an excellent example of a country with a booming eco-tourism industry. “Costa Rica is also en route to becoming the first carbon neutral country by 2021. The famous vow by the Costa Rican government, delivered in 2007, to become the first carbon neutral destination, raised the standard yet again for the global ecotourism community;” a quote taken from ecotourism.org.
2. Green Spaces Increase People’s Happiness/Productivity
Many studies have shown that green spaces improve people’s happiness and productivity in the work place. A desk with a view of a park or a stroll at lunch can work wonders in relieving stress and increasing positivity, even augmenting people’s physical health. As a country, avoiding deforestation by setting aside national reserves, implementing reforestation efforts, creating parks in urban centers and encouraging individuals’ creation of green spaces in their homes and neighborhoods is a great way to a happier, healthier population. Individuals in a community can create green walls or plant rooftop gardens, improving air quality and providing flowers for our struggling pollinators. Neighborhoods can work together to create communal green spaces for growing food as well.
A great example of immense eco-awareness is Bhutan. “In this country the environment is cherished. The kingdom lists environmental protection as one of the four pillars of happiness, a state of mind the country takes so seriously that ‘gross national happiness’ is considered more important than gross domestic product,” a quote taken from a CNN article.
Another good (and somewhat surprising) example is Colombia. Considering they’re host to 10% of the world’s species, the “Colombian government has made efforts to turn the country into one that is eco-friendly. To do so, numerous national parks, some including native medicinal plants, have been opened, one of the most notable being the Orito Igni-Ande Medicinal Flora Sanctuary. Also, architects in Colombia have put down the steel and started to use bamboo, which they say is just as durable and reliable as a means to building structures. Even fashion has gone green in Colombia: designer Maria Nubia Ayala has created a line of clothing using leaves and flowers,” a quote from the top ten greenest countries list.
3. Avoid Pesticides and Promote Healthy Agriculture
Currently the global face of agriculture is an ugly one: GMO crops replacing native ones, frequent use of toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, improper use of existing farmland and deforestation to create more, inhumane treatment of animals including living conditions and artificial hormones …the list goes on. May people are interested in where their food comes from and how it’s being produced or raised. People are willing to pay more for organics, because they know what a difference it can make for their health, as well as the health of the planet.
Cuba is a fascinating example of this. “Cuba’s transition to organic agriculture emerged as a necessary response to the food crisis that gripped the nation in the early 1990s. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and a longstanding trade embargo that severely constrained industrialised agricultural practices on the island, Cuban producers turned the declining availability of pesticides, fertilisers and petroleum into an opportunity to shift towards organic production with numerous environmental, social and economic gains,” says the UNEP in their article on green economy.
Moreover, “the country has put forth effort to reuse farm land, decrease the use of harmful pesticides, and to lower the sea level to ensure that salt from the water does not ruin the rich soil. Cuba has also decided to only use organic products on all farms. On the other hand, while other countries may focus on wind or nuclear energy, Cuba has decided to put a lot of effort and money into using hydroelectric energy. In 2008, the country began connecting many homes and businesses located in Guamá to a hydroelectric power station. Once it is all said and done and the 30 rivers located near or in Guamá are used, almost 7,000 people will have clean electricity.”
4. Resist Unethical Big Business and Encourage Independent Business Owners
One of our great errors in development, I believe, is the encouragement of big business. Not only do large corporations frequently exploit their workers and harm their constituency, but they are bound by law to put profits above everything else, creating economic externalities. And besides, what’s more boring than a chain? Strip malls with the same stores and restaurants are something Americans are rejecting, choosing unique, individually owned places with different options of merchandise, recipes and the like. Homogenous malls full of franchises, though they certainly still exist, are a trend developed nations are moving away from.
Bolivia is an amazing example of a developing nation that recognizes the follies of big business. “While much of Latin American is enamored with McDonald’s, Bolivia finally got the fast food company to abandon its posts in the country in 2002. Although the corporation tried fruitlessly to turn a profit for the better part of 14 years, eventually it had to concede that its concept wasn’t catching on in Bolivia.
This time, it wasn’t because the country was “too poor” to support the chain; collectively, Bolivians chose to make wiser food choices. Culturally, Bolivians cherish food so seeing meals prepared cheaply and haphazardly didn’t attract many patrons to the businesses. The government didn’t need to pass explicit laws to get rid of McDonald’s; the population’s lack of patronage took care of it naturally.”
5. Maximize Green Sources of Energy
With constant advances in green technology, why not take advantage of the energy that Mother Nature has already given us? Depending on the location and natural resources available, there are many options to capitalize on clean energy.
For example, “while the rest of the world deals with continuously fluctuating oil prices, Sweden has decided to make things a little easier for the country and its people by making a plan to phase out the use of fossil fuels by 2020; however, these efforts didn’t just begin. The change really started in the 1980s during the oil crisis. Efforts towards this new 2020 goal have already started and 28% of the energy and resources used in Sweden are renewable and eco-friendly. The country has really focused on the use of hydropower, nuclear power, and wind power to provide electricity and other necessities throughout Sweden.”
And our green hero, Bhutan, “is tapping into that clean energy on a massive scale. Hydropower is the sole source of electricity in the country and experts say the country is only using about 5 percent of its potential right now.” The sky is the limit.
The United States could learn a lot from these developing nations on how to take better care of the planet. Americans make up only 5% of the world’s population and yet consume 20% of its energy. That’s a staggering statistic, and needs to change. How do you think the United States could improve its consumption? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.